Along with second screenings of a handful of its offerings, New Directors / New Films introduces four more titles this weekend: Radu Jude's The Happiest Girl in the World, Dima El-Horr's Every Day is a Holiday, Nader T Homayoun's Tehroun and Tanya Hamilton's Night Catches Us.
"Irony of a blunt sort typifies the title of The Happiest Girl in the World, in which a high school girl who has won a car in a popular juice's promotional campaign goes to the big city to star in a commercial and finds herself very, very unhappy." Nick Schager in Slant: "Radu Jude's film has many of New Romanian Cinema's hallmarks, from its long unbroken takes and absence of a traditional score to its ordinary looking actors and air of nonchalant realism." Just two out of four stars, though.
But for Hammer to Nail's Michael Tully, "Jude's small gem of a picture strikes a lovely, bittersweet note." More from Howard Feinstein at indieWIRE, also featuring an inteview with Jude.
Simon Abrams for the New York Press on Every Day is a Holiday: "Israeli thesp Hiam Abbass heads this visually commanding but simultaneously schematic and oblique drama about a trio of Israeli women on their way to visit their respective husbands at a prison located in the middle of the desert.... [T]he film attempts to plumb the emotional depths of real-life, historical events, which are never directly addressed in the film, with a deeply abstract narrative that serves as a thinly veiled allegory about marital strife and the indomitable inner strength of Israeli women. Not much there."
"El-Horr's insistence on a strategic abstraction at nearly all levels (narrative, thematic, characterization), a tendency that increases the closer the film gets to its arid conclusion, makes moot the question of handsome imagery," writes Andrew Schenker in Slant. "What at first seemed like a suggestive vagueness ends by being simply vague."
Tehroun "offers a particularly pungent slice of neorealist life as it tracks the increasingly downward spiral of a struggling Tehran transplant, Ibrahim (Ali Ebdali)," writes Manohla Dargis in the New York Times. "In its vivid, at times almost shockingly unvarnished depiction of an Iranian underworld that teams with child smugglers, prostitutes and thieves worthy of Dickens, Tehroun recalls films from Jafar Panahi like Crimson Gold and The Circle."
Megan Ratner for Bright Lights After Dark: "Despite slightly too-flat characters, Tehroun has moments that approach the force of Gomorrah (2008) or The Child (2005), all three films clear about the lethal effect on people when money alone determines value."
"Set in 1976 Philadelphia, and featuring a score by local band the Roots, Tanya Hamilton’s Night Catches Us observes the reunion of two old friends," blogged Dennis Lim when the film premiered at Sundance in January. "Marcus (Anthony Mackie) is back in town after a mysterious absence; Patricia (Kerry Washington), now with an 8-year-old daughter, used to be married to his best friend. There is an obvious attraction, as well as a complicated history — they were both involved with the Black Panthers in the late 60s — and it only gradually emerges. The climactic lurch into tragic melodrama is predictable and perfunctory, but the film has a powerful sense of time and place, and it effectively conjures the hangover of a failed revolution. Washington and Mackie (who had breakthrough films at Sundance: Our Song and Half Nelson respectively) are both first-rate, delivering controlled, suggestive performances."
"[I]t's the rare movie about black life that finds level of complexity and humanity without any of the defensiveness or guilt," wrote the Boston Globe's Wesley Morris, also in January. "It feels greedy to ask a movie this serious and sincere to also be rousing, but I'm a glutton."
More from Simon Abrams (NYP), Melissa Anderson (Voice), Brandon Harris (Hammer to Nail) and Nick Schager (Slant). Update, 3/30: IndieWIRE interviews Hamilton. Update, 4/1: Viewing. Mekado Murphy talks with Hamilton for the New York Times.
"Robin Hood, the epic blockbuster by British director Ridley Scott, starring Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett (and Max Von Sydow, Lea Seydoux, William Hurt), is to be screened at the Opening of the 63rd Festival de Cannes on Wednesday May 12th 2010. The film will be presented out of competition." And the fest will run through May 23.
Film Threat's Mark Bell: "Running April 21 - 28, 2010, the eighth annual The Independent Film Festival of Boston (IFFBoston) has announced its full lineup of film selections."
"The Harvard Film Archive is devoting this weekend to [Abdellatif] Kechiche's films, as part of his accepting Harvard's McMillan-Stewart Fellowship in Distinguished Filmmaking, which goes to directors of Francophone African descent." The Boston Globe's Wesley Morris: "He joins some intimidating peers. Abderrahmane Sissako was a 1999 fellow, and the late Ousmane Sembene accepted in 2001. Kechiche will attend all three screenings this weekend. May he be peppered with pleas for advice. If he can inspire just two young American filmmakers to bring new people and perceptions — some genuine feeling — to their art, then the movies will be profoundly better for it."
Joseph Losey: Pictures of Provocation runs through April 16 at the Pacific Film Archive. Brecht Andersch in SFMOMA's Open Space: "Marxist or not, Losey was a man of infinite ambition and little faith in received wisdom in whatever environment he found himself... Buoyed by a building vogue for his work in France, Losey was able to break into the big leagues with Eve in 1962. Aptly described by Losey's biographer, David Caute, as 'visually…a ravishing tour de force,' Eve pits fraudulent 'author' and male hysteric Stanley Baker against the cold, high-class courtesan title character portrayed by Jeanne Moreau.... In Accident, all of Losey's themes and obsessions fuse, as symbolized by its uniting of Bogarde and Baker, who had each previously played the lead in four and three Losey productions, respectively (it would prove the last for both of them). Its narrative and Resnais-influenced time-scheme are notoriously complex."
"Yerba Buena Center for the Arts' month-long, six-part Human Rights and Film series closes with two documentaries on the Arab-Israeli conflict," writes Dennis Harvey at SF360. "Though they were made 35 years apart and approach overlapping concerns from wildly different perspectives, both features underline how little has truly changed in that time span — save, of course, the regional conflict's enormously expanded impact on international politics, cultural divisions and the militarization of religious belief." Susan Sontag's Promised Lands screened yesterday, actually, but you can still catch David Ridgen and Nicolas Rossier's American Radical: The Trials of Norman Finkelstein on Sunday.
Mad, Bad... & Dangerous to Know: Three Untamed Beauties runs at New York's Japan Society from Wednesday through April 18: "At the opposite end of the stereotype of docile Japanese women — heroic good mothers, chaste daughters and hardworking faithful wives — actresses Ayako Wakao, Mariko Okada and Meiko Kaji embodied the transgression of limits, breaking rules, flouting norms and generally upsetting everyone."
"Jean-Pierre Melville's penultimate film, Le Cercle Rouge (1970), which plays matinees this weekend at IFC Center, is the kind of formalist exercise in genre-movie clothes (in this case, a jewelry heist flick) that is rarely attempted," writes Zach Wigon for L Magazine, "but when attempted, more often than not brought off with at least some degree of success. Perhaps that's because filmmakers know that to attempt an über-formal deconstruction of a beloved genre requires the finesse and even-handed balance of a magician, or a tightrope walker — or, well, a jewel thief."
"Matthew Hoffman, a former programmer of the old LaSalle Bank Cinema (now Bank of America Cinema) launches a weekly nine-film series on precode Hollywood at the Park Ridge Public Library." The Chicago Reader's JR Jones has an overview. Also, a guide to the final stretch of the European Union Film Festival, running through Thursday. More from CINE-FILE.
"Seattle Theatre Group and Trader Joe's present the latest installment in their popular Silent Movie Monday's series, Silents from the South Seas and three two-reel shorts from Charles Chaplin's Mutual Film Corporation catalog." David Jeffers in the Siffblog on Edna Purviance.
"Paul Newman (whose career is being celebrated with a season of films at BFI Southbank next month) was a victim of his own geniality and easy charm," writes Geoffrey Macnab in the Independent. "The longer his career went on, the less he seemed to stretch himself. Audiences rooted for him whatever characters he played. Just occasionally, he would wrong-foot them by straying from type and this was invariably when he did his most memorable work."
"Short films should be short, especially when they play in front of features, right?" asks Kim Adelman at indieWIRE. "The 2010 edition of New Directors/New Films breaks that cardinal rule by programming eleven shorts, the majority of which clock in at 20 minutes and over. This rule breaking pays off in spades as every single one of the ND/NF shorts has undeniable cinematic weight."
"[W]hat makes Forgotten Transports stand out from the multitude of Holocaust documentaries is that its director, Lukas Pribyl, did more than track down survivors or burrow through film archives and deportation records," writes Joseph Berger in the New York Times. "Over 10 years and visits to 30 countries, he hunted down photographs of SS camp commanders and snapshots taken by local residents and workers who might have encountered inmates, sometimes trading bottles of vodka for the artifacts. The impression conveyed is that a photographer was along for the nightmare ride of the Czech Jews.... The full six-hour series will have its United States premiere on Saturday and Sunday at the Legacy of Shoah Film Festival at John Jay College in Manhattan."
"Japanese film lost one of its greatest unsung heroes this past week," notes Chris MaGee. "Takeo Kimura, production designer and art director for over 200 films including classics by Seijun Suzuki, died of pneumonia on March 21st in a Setagaya-ku, Tokyo hospital. He was 91."
"Paul Dunlap, a prolific film composer for three decades and a frequent collaborator of Sam Fuller, died March 11 in Palm Springs. He was 90." Mike Barnes for the Hollywood Reporter.
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